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God Repented?

Posted Nov 30, 2017 by Carlos A. Hernández in Character of God
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The exercise of solving apparent contradictions in the Bible is one that every Bible student should be acquainted with. It helps to understand better the Scriptures, to present the message of the Bible with clarity, and most important, to know the God of the Bible. Many subscribe themselves to a literal reading of the Bible and taking the Bible as it reads, but in doing so without comparing scripture with scripture they end up picking and choosing what to believe, ignoring the apparent contradictions in their minds.

Recently I was reading Genesis 6, trying to understand it under the Relational framework, and many points were understood differently than previous times. I’m just going to share one of those points.

Gen 6:5  And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually.

Gen 6:6  And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

Gen 6:7  And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Was God mistaken when He created man so He needs to repent from it? As simple as it may be, many understand, and even quote this verses, as proof of an angry God so displeased with his own creation, that He needs to destroy it. The second part of verse 6, “and it grieved him at his heart”, which sheds light unto the first part, and expands it into a Relational framework is ignored or overshadowed by the thought of man being so evil that God repented from making man, as an inventor or fabricator that can easily get rid of a product that turned out bad; the difference is that apparently God decided to destroy the Earth and Man with the flood. This understanding makes God so cold hearted. Anyway, the following verse, written by the same author (Moses, but spoken by the prophet Balaam), and using the same word nacham H5162, goes like this and seems to present an apparent contradiction in Scripture.

Num 23:19  God [is] not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do [it]? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

We encounter the same problem in 1Samuel 15.

1Sa 15:11  It repenteth me that I have set up Saul [to be] king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

1Sa 15:29  And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he [is] not a man, that he should repent.

1Sa 15:35  And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

In verses 11, 29, and 35 the same word nacham is used. Verse 11 and verse 35 say that God repented from making Saul king, but verse 29 seems to be quoting Numbers 23:19 saying that God does not lie nor repent, for He is no man to do so. We have the same problem in 1Samuel 15, than in Genesis 6 and Numbers 23, and there are many other examples of this in the Bible. The fact is that we need to reconcile these verses. Does God repents, or He doesn’t? The Hebrew word nacham give us many translation possibilities: properly to sigh, breathe strongly, be sorry, to pity, console, rue, avenge, comfort, ease, and repent.

Repent is the last one of the list.

Let’s take 1Samuel 15 and reconcile those verses because the word nacham in these verses can’t have the same meaning or the Bible would be contradicting itself. Verse 11 says that God nacham for setting Saul as king, and verse 29 says that God is not a man to nacham.

One possibility to reconcile these verses is to use the meaning, to sigh, or breathe strongly, for verses 11 and 35, as saying that God is emotionally grieving that He made Saul king, and the meaning of repent in verse 29 as saying that God is not a man to repent. A visible scene of this invisible feelings of God, is the reaction of Prophet Samuel in verse 11: “And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.” Did Samuel loved Saul more than God did? In this verse, just as in Genesis 6, the second part of the verse explains the possible meaning of nacham in the verse. Also, we should consider the possibility of Samuel quoting Numbers 23:19 in which the context of God blessing the nation of Israel through Balaam it would make more sense the meaning repent, as saying that God is not a man to repent from blessing Israel, than to say that God is not a man to grieve for blessing Israel.

A second possibility, but impossible for me, is to say in verses 11 and 35 that God repented for making Saul king, and in verse 29 that He is not a man to sigh, to breathe heavily, to grieve or to suffer, in other words that God cannot be emotionally moved.

How do we choose? Is God a cold hearted God? Let’s look at Jesus and the New Testament for answers.

Mat 6:9  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Jesus revealed that God is a Father and that we can know Him through Jesus.

Joh 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Joh 14:7  If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

Joh 14:8  Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

Joh 14:9  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou [then], Shew us the Father?

Joh 14:10  Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

Joh 14:11  Believe me that I [am] in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.

Joh 11:35  Jesus wept.

Can we say that the Father that dwells in Christ was weeping when Jesus wept?

Jesus revealed that the Father loves us.

Joh 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Joh 16:27  For the Father himself loveth you,…

John who received the revelation of Jesus Christ wrote that God is Agape:

1Jn 4:8  ...God is love.

Paul wrote that Agape/God:

1Co 13:7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

And Paul also said:

Eph 4:30  And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

The whole Bible testifies that God is emotionally moved.

Hos 11:8  …mine heart is turned within me…

So the second option that presented God repenting for making Saul king, but stating that God is not a man to be emotionally moved can’t be the best option to reconcile Scripture. Our only available option in this case to reconcile scripture is the first one; that the outcome of making Saul king brought suffering to God, and that God is not a man to lie nor to repent. He changes not.

Mal 3:6  For I [am] the LORD, I change not.

In Genesis 6:6 God was emotionally moved and grieving for His children, and the fact that He does not repent proofs that He changes not and that He will always grieve the loss of His children, even if they are wicked.